- The latest developments:
- Israeli army spokesman Admiral Daniel Hagari
- The forces say they are besieging Gaza City, destroying Hamas infrastructure above and below ground, and killing activists
- Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says Israel has the right to defend itself and go after Hamas, but the Gaza attack also appears to be turning into “retaliation.”
GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Israeli leaders on Friday to press for a humanitarian truce in the Gaza war as Israeli forces surround the largest city in the Palestinian enclave, the focus of their campaign to eliminate Hamas. .
Israeli forces bombed the Gaza Strip from land, sea and air throughout the night amid global concern about the scarcity of medical services, the collapse of medical services and the high civilian death toll.
Hamas and its ally, the Islamic Jihad movement, said their fighters detonated explosive devices on advancing forces, dropped grenades from drones, and fired mortar shells and anti-tank missiles in a fierce urban war around destroyed buildings and piles of rubble in Gaza City.
Blinken, on his second visit to Israel within a month, is scheduled to discuss with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu steps to reduce harm to civilians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, where food, fuel, water and medicine are running out, and buildings have been razed to the ground, and where food, fuel, water and medicine are running out. Thousands of people fled their homes to escape the continuous bombing.
The White House said any cessation of fighting should be temporary and local. It rejected calls from Arab countries and many other countries for a complete ceasefire in the war, which has entered its twenty-eighth day.
Gaza health authorities say at least 9,061 people – many of them women and children – have been killed since Israel began its assault on the enclave of 2.3 million in response to deadly attacks by Hamas militants on southern Israel.
Israel says the Iran-backed Hamas movement killed 1,400 people, most of them civilians, and took more than 240 hostage in the attacks on October 7, the bloodiest day in its 75-year history.
The Israeli army said that its warplanes, artillery and naval forces bombed Hamas targets overnight, killing a number of activists, including Mustafa Dalloul, a Hamas commander who said he directed the fighting in Gaza. There was no immediate confirmation from Hamas.
Military spokesman Admiral Daniel Hajary said that Gaza City, a traditional stronghold of Hamas, was under siege. He added in a press briefing, “The soldiers advance in the battles, during which they destroy the terrorist infrastructure above and below the ground, and eliminate the terrorists.”
He added that during the night they found large caches of weapons, protective equipment, communications equipment and maps.
In an Israeli air strike on Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, a local journalist working for Palestinian state television and at least nine members of his family were killed in their home, his relatives and health officials said.
In one of the strongest criticisms of Israel from a European leader, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said that Israel has the right to defend itself and pursue Hamas, but the attack on Gaza also appears to be turning into “revenge.”
The United Arab Emirates, one of the few Arab countries with diplomatic relations with Israel, said on Friday that it was working “relentlessly” for an immediate ceasefire, warning that the risk of regional spillover and further escalation was real.
Israel rejected these calls, saying it was targeting Hamas fighters, whom it accuses of deliberately hiding among residents and civilian buildings.
Blinken is scheduled to meet with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on Saturday. Al-Safadi said in a statement that Israel must end the war on Gaza, as he said it was committing war crimes by bombing civilians and imposing the blockade.
The Israeli army said that its forces and tanks encountered mines and booby traps as they advanced into Gaza. Hamas fighters were using a vast underground tunnel network to launch hit-and-run attacks.
Israel says it lost 23 soldiers in the attack.
Abu Ubaida, spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, said in a televised speech that the number of Israeli deaths in Gaza is much higher. He said: “Your soldiers will return with black bags.”
Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was flying intelligence-gathering drones over Gaza to help locate the hostages.
The Rafah crossing from Gaza to Egypt is scheduled to open for a third day on Friday for limited evacuations under a Qatar-brokered agreement aimed at allowing some foreign passport holders, their families and some wounded Gazans to exit the Strip.
According to border officials, more than 700 foreign nationals left for Egypt via Rafah in the previous two days. Dozens of seriously injured Palestinians were also scheduled to cross. Israel asked foreign countries to send hospital ships to them.
Israel also returned about 7,000 Palestinians who were working in Israel and the West Bank before October 7 to Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing in the south. The workers said they were detained and ill-treated by the Israeli authorities.
Those living in Gaza City and the north will have to find shelter elsewhere because Israeli forces have cut off roads.
Israel’s spokesman Hajari said Israel was also “fully prepared” on its northern border with Lebanon, where he said Iranian-backed militants were carrying out operations aimed at distracting it from the war in Gaza.
The Palestinians besieged in Gaza City expressed their hope that a truce would be reached soon.
He asked, “Is the world waiting for Israel to slaughter hundreds of thousands who refuse to leave their homes, and whose only fault is that they do not want to leave their country?” One said.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Dan Williams, Emily Rose, Mittal Angel in Jerusalem, Clauda Tanios in Dubai, Patricia Zengerle, Phil Stewart and Idris Ali in Washington – Prepared by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza) Additional reporting from the offices of Reuters worldwide; Writing by Michael Perry and Angus McSwan, Editing by Miral Fahmy and Andrew Cawthorne
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